Side events by IETA

December 17, 2009

Given the difficulty entering the Bella Center, I’ve positioned myself for most of the conference down the street at the Crown Plaza where the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) is putting on a full week of side events about carbon markets and the future of regulatory systems at both the national and subnational levels.  In contrast to the KlimaForum, another off-site venue attracting a range of NGOs including human rights leaders and activists concerned with climate change, the IETA event feels diametrically opposed, focused almost entirely on and represented primarily by the private sector.  But while I find both perspectives very important, I decided on the IETA events as my main area of research concerns emission trading.

Holding the coveted "secondary" badge

The first panel I attended discussed China’s newly developed Panda Standard, the first domestic market ever to be established in China that specifically focuses on the agriculture and forestry sectors.  These sectors largely affect the rural and poorer areas of China in the western part of the country that has not benefited from foreign capital coming into China through international offset projects under the CDM.  This market looks to be very successful due to its partnership with BlueNext, one of Europe’s largest and most effective carbon traders, and the support of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, China’s largest and most influential ministry.

My biggest doubt about this market is who are the buyers for these credits?  One speaker on the panel claimed demand would come from companies in China looking to support the rural sections of the country while making their operations carbon neutral.  I am unsure if Chinese companies will be motivated to invest much into this voluntary market, especially when China will most likely need to meet mandatory reductions in intensity of greenhouse gas emissions.  Some ministers have suggested that finding a way to make these voluntary emission reductions (VERs) compatible with certified emission reductions (CERs) would result in much demand.  But no mechanism currently exists for merging VERs and CERs into the same market as these two standards are fundamentally different. The path to make China’s Panda Standard viable still has many hurdles to overcome, but should be interesting to watch its future developments.

Another presentations included the private sector’s hopes for the regulatory environment that will be established by the UNFCCC and other governing bodies, progress on the American “smart grid”, adaptation measures in the United States, and innovative ideas about the scope and scale of carbon markets, including the registry of black carbon as a greenhouse gas.  Overall the conference provided a lot of very valuable information but was very American focused.  I learned one reason for this is due to the conferences sponsorship with The Climate Registry that has its roots in California. Nonetheless I greatly enjoyed the range of questions coming from audience and talking with other participants in between meetings and look forward to continuing these conversations at the reception starting in a few minutes.  I will definitely keep tabs on future IETA developments and its work with carbon markets.

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Leaving Logan

December 14, 2009

We’ve all arrived at the airport, with an hour before our plane takes off to Copenhagen and the excitement is palpable.  For the past week I’ve been glued to my computer screen reading the International Institute of Sustainable Development’s (IISD) daily Earth Bulletin.  These reports cover the conference in better detail and less filtered than any other news source out there.  (And Anna Shultz, a Fletcher PhD student, works as one of its main contributors).  I highly recommend you check it out, particularly the “In the Corridors” section at the end of every edition.

The conference has proven more exciting than many people anticipated.  First the leaked Danish proposal caused a controversy especially among many developing countries.  Then Tuvalu responded with its own version of a post-2012 framework.  And yesterday, hundreds if not thousands of people marched from the center of town to the Bella Center where the conference takes place to call for leaders to take a stand and ensure a positive outcome from the conference.  “The climate must change for us to really address Climate Change” rallied one participant.  Unfortunately, now going into the last week of the negotiations, few countries have budged much on their original positions.  Negotiators will have their work cut out for them to produce return to their home countries with solid results from COP 15.

For my own research, it appears that the main carbon offsetting tool, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), will continue in some form in the post-Kyoto framework, but in what form, no one can tell as of yet.  Negotiators will continue to address offsetting frameworks, saying which sections are acceptable, negotiable, and unacceptable.  I’ll be reporting on these developments further as the conference winds down and results begin to appear.

And this is just from the main negotiations.  Some argue the real show occurs in the hundreds of side events going on both on site and around the Danish capital.  35,000 climate experts from NGOs and IGOs have signed up for the conference, meaning there will be a lot of opportunities for informal conversations with some the leading experts in these areas. Once on ground, we’ll be able to provide better details about the real Copenhagen experience.

They’re calling for our flight to board.  Off we go!